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Team New Zealand's Volvo Open 70 in London, September 2011. (Credit: Docklandsboy via Wikimedia)

New Zealand’s Radio Sport aired a retraction after its host Martin Devlin claimed two members of New Zealand’s sailing team wrongly paid “themselves millions of dollars” in government money, according to sailing news site Sail-World.

After the Radio Sport report, one of the two sailors, Alan Sefton, sued the station. The other died more than a decade ago.

The original Radio Sport segment by Devlin claimed two founding members of New Zealand’s sailing team, Sir Peter Blake and Alan Sefton, had been receiving large sums of money.

Blake, who was “syndicate head of Team New Zealand” in 1995, was killed by pirates in 2001 in South America, according to a profile on him published on Tourism New Zealand’s website and The Guardian. Sefton was the executive director of the team in 1995, his author page on book publishing company Penguin Books states. New Zealand won the 1995 America’s Cup.

Radio Sport’s Devlin had said on the air, emphasis ours:

“The other thing is the accountability of the money, which is the big bugbear of mine, and I know why they don’t because these guys pay themselves millions of dollars in salary, and that is a fact. I know that Blake and Sefton were getting paid about five million each with the America’s Cup and they weren’t even on the bloody boat.”

Radio Sport then retracted its claims as part of a settlement.

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iMediaEthics asked Radio Sport what Sefton’s legal threat entailed, if the retraction was published anywhere, why Blake wasn’t included in the retraction and how the false claims made it on the air.

Radio Sport’s Matt Hunt responded to iMediaEthics’ inquiry, “A settlement has been reached on terms acceptable to the parties of all issues in dispute.  We have no further comment.”

The on-air retraction, published in full by Sail-World, admitted the claims “were completely untrue and should never have been made.”

The retraction reported that Sefton “wasn’t paid from “government or taxpayer funds” and that all Sefton was paid was “a salary and a commission on funds raised.”

“At all times he acted ethically in relation to the funds received by Team New Zealand, whether in the form of sponsorship or otherwise,” the retraction stated.

The statement was read three times on the air, according to Sail-World.

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